Becoming an Interpreter

[Taken in part from the RID and the Ohio School for the Deaf Center for Outreach Services websites]

Sign language interpreting is a rapidly expanding field. Schools, government agencies, hospitals, court systems and private businesses employ interpreters. Interpreters work in a variety of settings including medical, legal, religious, mental health, rehabilitation, performing arts and business. The interpreting field is experiencing an increase in demand for qualified interpreters. This is due, in part, with the advent of Video Relay Service (VRS) and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). These services offer consumers access to real-time visual communication with the hearing community. As the methods of communication increase between the Deaf and hearing communities through technological advancements, we will also experience an increase in demand for the number of qualified interpreters to be utilized through these techniques.

Interpreters Make Communication Possible
Sign Language/spoken English interpreters are highly skilled professionals who facilitate communication between hearing individuals and the Deaf or hard-of-hearing. They are a crucial communication tool utilized by all people involved in a communication setting. Interpreters must be able to listen to another person’s words, inflections and intent and simultaneously render them into the visual language of signs using the mode of communication preferred by the deaf consumer. The interpreter must also be able to comprehend the signs, inflections and intent of the deaf consumer and simultaneously speak them in articulate, appropriate English. They must understand the cultures in which they work and apply that knowledge to promote effective cross-cultural communications.

More Than Fluency
Interpreting requires specialized expertise. While proficiency in English and in sign language is necessary, language skills alone are not sufficient for an individual to work as a professional interpreter.

Becoming an interpreter:

  • Is a complex process that requires a high degree of linguistic, cognitive and technical skills;
  • Takes a committed individual to not only achieve certification but to also maintain and grow the skills needed;
  • Requires physical stamina, endurance and the ability to emotionally handle an assignment and adhere to confidentiality;
  • Necessitates a great knowledge of the English language and the ability to speak clearly, be audibly heard and to portray the feelings and emotion of the speaker, whether they are voice or sign interpreting.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the provision of qualified interpreters in a variety of settings. It states that "To satisfy this requirement, the interpreter must have the proven ability to effectively communicate..." While one does not have to be certified to work as an interpreter in Ohio, an important measure of an interpreter’s proven ability is professional credentials. Credentials are obtained by taking and passing an assessment of your skills. RID provides testing for national certification. See the RID Certification link under Resources.

Working in the K-12 setting (from the 2011 Ohio Guidelines for Educational Interpreters):
In October 1996, the State Board of Education passed a resolution to adopt new teacher education and licensure standards. The general assembly passed a concurrent resolution of approval of the standards in November 1996, establishing the effective date of January 1, 1998, for Chapter 3301-24 of the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC). For the first time in Ohio's history, educational interpreters were included in the standards. Interpreters were also included in the rules for temporary and substitute licenses which became effective February 22, 2008 (Chapter 3301-23-44). The Ohio Administrative Code can be found at
  • Licensure (OAC 3301-24-05):
    "The associate license, valid for five years, shall be issued to an individual who holds an associate degree; who is deemed to be of good moral character; and who has completed an approved program of preparation in the area of 'Interpreter for the hearing impaired...'"

    Temporary and substitute licenses (OAC 3301-23-44):
    "Temporary pupil services license. A temporary pupil services license may be issued to an individual who is deemed to be of good moral character and who evidences a currently valid license or meets the qualifications as specified in this paragraph provided the vacancy has been posted with the Ohio department of education for two weeks and no properly licensed and suitable candidate has been identified by the employing district:

    "Interpreter for the hearing impaired” – limited to individuals enrolled in a program leading to licensure in interpreting for the hearing impaired."
    The temporary license may be renewed with completion of six semester hours of coursework from an approved program.

    Temporary and substitute licenses (OAC 3301-23-44):
    "Substitute teaching license. A one-year or five-year substitute teaching license may be issued to qualified individuals. Such licenses shall be designated as short-term substitute licenses or long- term substitute licenses.
    "Long-term substitute license. A long-term substitute license, valid for the area listed on the license, may be issued as specified in this paragraph:”
    "A substitute license for interpreter for the hearing impaired may be issued to an individual who is deemed to have the necessary skills to serve in the capacity of educational interpreter."

Aside from RID certification, one may take the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment, administered by the EIPA Diagnostic Center at Boys Town National Research Hospital. See the link under Resources for more information.

While Ohio does not yet require a degree or certification to interpret outside of the K-12 classroom setting, to gain competence in interpreting, one should consider enrolling in an Interpreter Training Program. Ohio has nine institutions that offer degrees related to the field of interpreting: